The Best Question of the Summer (so far).

I finished pruning back a large, overgrown flowering quince bush (Chaenomeles sp.) for a client last week. This shrub was easily 8 feet tall and had suffered through numerous prior attempts to keep it under control. If you know about quince – a member of the rose family – you know they often have long and boisterous thorns that make pruning difficult if not downright dangerous! (Gardening is the main reason I stay current on my tetanus shots.) My client was thrilled I was able to reduce the shrub in a visually pleasing way that will also improve the blooms next spring. As we stood there admiring the shrub, she asked, “So what should I expect going forward?”

I realized it was a question I don’t hear enough – whether pruning a shrub, or teaching someone how to stake a tree or plant a tomato, we often admire the place where we finish without anticipating the road ahead. The wonderful thing about plants is that they Just. Keep. Growing! Or sprawling, or dying, or going where they don’t belong, but something always changes from day to day. So please take a moment to admire your garden, but also to think ahead about how things grow, what weather is likely in the weeks ahead, and how you can help a particular plant face their seasonal challenges. This is Real Gardening – live in the moment, but be mindful of the calendar too!

(The answer to my client’s question was that yes, the shrub would continue growing, but the pruning cuts I made would direct the growth into a less rampant direction. She'd need to prune out the occasional unruly branch or two, but I showed her how to cut them back to avoid future problems.)

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